Today I met Jean-Claude Rieflé, owner and wine maker of the Domaine Rieflé in Pfaffenheim, near Colmar. The Rieflé family goes back to 1850 in the history of Alsace wine. Jean-Claude is also an expert in international commerce. As many of his peers, Domaine Rieflé produces Riesling, Late Harvest and all the varietal wines of Alsace.
Jean-Claude is very aware of a coming European regulation that will be operating in 2013. By then, producers will be able to create varietal brand, such as Riesling, from any place and apply on their label “Riesling”, “Wine of France” or “Riesling “Wine of Germany”, whether the grape was harvested in Languedoc, Mosel or Alsace. Those wines could be sold as low as 1,50 euros when a good Riesling on the right terroir can sell for up to 7,00 euros.
To counteract this problem, some Alsace wine producers, led by people like Jean-Claude Rieflé who have a vision, decided to stage the terroir more than the grape, as their Burgundy or Chateauneuf-du-Pape counterparts have always be doing.
In fact, as jean-Claude explained to me, this strategy is such part of the real Alsace tradition. Until the end of the 19th entury, Alsace wines were known by their terroir more than their grape. This change gives the Alsace producers the possibility to go back to their traditional roots and to make them express their terroir more than the variety.